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Opinion About Panel Discussions

What’s your honest opinion about panel discussions? Really! I want to know.

Ten years ago, I did a little research project and published my findings in the 2014 Panel Report. Have things changed? Are they the same? I’m curious. Are you?

A decade later, I have teamed up with Tim Woodring and my friends at Unbridled (an AWESOME full-service corporate event company) to create a more robust survey about the state of the panel discussion at meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Would you do me a favor and take the survey? THANK YOU!!!!! I sooooo appreciate your input and perspective!

If I had to look into my crystal ball, I think we will see a few key themes coming out of the responses. I may be wrong, but then again, I may be right. You tell me:

  1. Panel discussions are not going away. They are still a prominent format at meetings, conferences, and conventions. Not only are they prominent, but a dominant format, especially in the virtual world.
  2. Over half of the respondents don’t think highly of panels. In 2014, 63% of the respondents thought panels were merely okay or worse. I don’t think that needle has moved much.
  3. Panels have not improved significantly over the last 10 years. Even though panels are a dominant format with a lousy reputation, you would think the format would get better. But it hasn’t.
  4. There is room for improvement. Especially in the academic and technical worlds, some might think “A panel is a panel – and that’s just the way it is done around here.” I vehemently disagree – ergo this website and a body of work that tells you otherwise.
  5. Exceptional panels are the result of intentional design, planning, and preparation. Traditional panels are a lazy format with very little time spent in the planning or designing of the panel. Exceptional panels are more than just showing up and sharing a few words of wisdom.
  6. The key to a great panel is the panel moderator. Having a poor moderator was the biggest “pet peeve” in 2014 with out-of-control panelists following close behind.  I don’t think this will change – so why aren’t organizers more thoughtful about selecting skilled moderators?
  7. Audience engagement is important to audience members. The panel discussion is no longer a passive event. Audiences want to be involved in the selection of the topic, the formation of the questions, engaged in the session itself (beyond audience Q&A), and in continuing the conversation after the panel is over.
  8. Diversity is increasingly more important. I can’t say that the days of a “manel” are over, but I believe the importance of visual diversity is on the meeting organizer’s radar – and is glaringly apparent to the audience.

Finally, we recognize that panel discussions might be perceived differently between organizers, moderators, panelists, and audience members. So the first question we ask is “From what perspective will you be answering the survey?”

So if you are a meeting organizer, panel moderator, panelist, or have been in the audience of a panel discussion, I encourage you to share your opinion in this survey! THANK YOU again.

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For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.

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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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